Monday, August 30, 2010

Oh dear!

We spotted this shiny new sign today opposite the entrance to Packet Boat marina and adjacent to a canal bridge. How can a sign get carefully erected and then accepted by the customer like that?? Do you think someone ought to tell the owners it has a slight flaw?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What I stole at the IWA festival

A pleasant enough day strolling round the IWA National Festival, but I wasn't overly impressed. There were lots and lots and lots of visiting boats (and presumably boaters) there, but important sections of the trade seemed to have failed to take advantage. Sure, you could buy a barbecue or a mop. You could buy new windows for your boat from four or five stalls. You could buy a new engine from four or five places. But where was all the chandlery, the every day bits and pieces that every boater needs to buy? Not there. At least not in any appreciable quantity. Strange.

I did buy a couple of items. One of those chains with rings at either end that you can use to secure your boat to steel pilings, and a gubbins for mounting an umbrella on the tiller bar, and a little magnetic card that clings to your gas bottle and shows you the level of the gas by reading the temperature difference between the liquid gas and the gas gas above it. Not too exciting but suspect they may all be handy.

We met up with Simon Tortoise and Robin and Laura (ex of our moorings) for a rather good lunchtime pint and a chat. We had hoped we might meet Halfie but as you can see if you follow this link he was otherwise engaged in losing his propeller somewhere up the Thames!!

Later we looked over two of the display boats, at either end almost of the price range.

1. A Calcutt Clipper (£44k) to see how they had installed a single dinette down one side of the galley.

2. First Dawn (£115k), a lovely lovely boat built by the Nantwich based Navigation Narrowboat Company on a Tyler Wilson shell. This is for a shared ownership group. We will never own a boat like this (unless we sell our house) but it is worth looking over just to see the workmanship. And as for the paint job, it is so good it makes you want to weep. The adjacent boat had been spray painted whereas First Dawn had been brush painted. A good demonstration of how a good brush job can give a better finish and a deeper shine if its done well.

So what did I steal from the festival? An idea, that's what.

Instead of securing solar panels by bolts or studs coming up through the frame, have studs or bolts sticking out from the ends of the frame to engage at right angles with the vertical roof mounted fixing, which in my case will be mounted on a magnet. This gives you a lot more chance to have some sort of swivelling arrangement to tilt the frame towards the sun. Simple, but it hadn't occurred to me. I shall now spend many happy hours perusing ironmongery sites to identify suitable bits and pieces. That's my idea of a good time.

Rick tells me he has failed to sink Herbie and that she is still miraculously afloat somewhere on the Regents canal.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Herbie turning green!

No not another repaint - I mean the other sort of green! After intensive research I'm close to signing on the dotted line for a solar panel for Herbie. I just want to wait until after we've been to the IWA festival this weekend in case we see anything better.

One of the considerations was how much it would get in the way on the roof, so I made a paper mock up of the probable panel and put it in place. A very good thing to do, as it allayed our fears a fair bit on that score. It doesn't look to obtrusive does it?

This is the size and shape of a 95watt Kyocera panel. I'm intending to feed the cables through the mushroom vent from where it will be relatively easy to route it in some conduit across the galley ceiling (which luckily is white) and into the lighting trunking and back to the controller which I will mount near the rear doors from where the cables to the battery will be a shortish run.

As to how to fix it to the roof, to start with I'm going to use magnets. You can now get very powerful cylindrical ones with a hole through so you can insert a stainless steel screw or bolt. The advantage is I don't have to drill holes in the boat roof or use adhesives. So if we change our mind on positioning after a short while, we can do it .

Some of these magnets have ferocious power and come with safety warnings about trapping your fingers. We'll be using relatively modest ones but still powerful enough to make a very firm fixing.

No doubt it will not be as easy as it looks but we'll see.

Meanwhile, today I hand over Herbie to Rick, Marilyn, Tim and Daizee for the weekend. They're going through London to Limehouse and back, so if you see Herbie give them a wave.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A non trivial welding job

I was admiring the lines of this boat on the hard standing at our boatyard and noticing a group of the staff stroking their chins whilst peering underneath..

Closer inspection revealed why. You hear about steel getting thin on boats but on this one you didn't need an ultrasound tester to diagnose it. some big patches were visibly thinned out and as for this spot . . . . Obviously a lovely boat like this is well worth saving. I dare say the inside is a nice home for someone. However, overplating the luscious curves of this hull is a non trivial task and will take some skill and know how. I'll be interested to see if it gets done at the yard and if I can get some photos of progress I'll post them here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Landlocked and increasingly frustrated!

This picture is just to cheer me up. I spotted this boat at Saul junction, which is close to a village called Whittington.

Why do I need cheering up? Well, you may have noticed that we haven't done a huge amount of cruising on Herbie this summer. It's not that we don't want to, but we have been awaiting a call to action. For some months now our daughter Claire has been on standby to go into hospital for a hysterectomy ( perhaps it's to remove some of her hysteria). So we have been on standby to be baby sitters while she is in hospital and to act as convalescent home for the six weeks after.

It's not that we mind doing this, but the NHS has given poor Claire so many delays and cancelled dates that we have for months been hanging around unnecessarily. We could have fitted in a long cruise quite easily while the hospital has been keeping us on tenterhooks. Anyway, after a number of false dawns, today is the day she has her op, so at least we now have some sort of end date in mind when we can take to the water again.

Our frustration is compounded lately by the exuberant cruising log blogs from Lucky Duck, Halfie and Indigo Dreaming. They've been having a great time, all in places I would love to be, and whilst it's nice to read about it I get green with envy.

Poor old Herbie is getting lonely too, so to keep her happy we've arranged for her to go cruising without us! Over the bank holiday Rick and Marilyn will be taking newly weds Tim and Daizee for a trip, probably to Limehouse and back, and then the following weekend old friends Phil and Janet will have Herbie for a day or two to entertain youngster relatives. I think I should get them all to do guest blog write ups , don't you?

Our cruising will be limited to an hour down to the winding hole and back to get the boat pointing in the right direction for them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Boaters buzzword bingo

When I was a working man, I use to attend the odd conference. Such events were supposed to tell us about new challenges, teach us new tricks and allow us to meet our fellow sufferers in the profession. Sadly, more often than not, the quality of the speakers were such that the main challenge we faced was staying awake. So in order to stay alert we used to play games. These games fell into two categories.

a) Predict the time elapsed before the latest most trendy buzzword (agreed in advance) was used by a speaker. My favourite for this at IT conferences was the phrase “leverage your investment” Leverage in this context was always pronounced to rhyme with beverage.

b) Buzzword bingo. Each player had a 4x4 grid and wrote a trendy and preferably annoying buzzword or phrase in each square. When a speaker uses one of these words you mark off the square and continue until you have four in a row, at which point you give small cheer to alert your colleagues that you have won and claim your free drinks in the bar that evening.

Game a) can be spoilt if a speaker, as once happened, uses the chosen phrase in his first sentence!

It occurs to me that Buzzword bingo might be a useful tool for boaters to keep in their back pocket, as boaters love to talk at length and the same topics always crop up. A stroll along the towpath at Saul junction last week resulted in three separate very lengthy conversations started by the slightest chance remark or action from me. For instance, all I did was peer at the cabling from a solar panel and half an hour later I not only had a run down on the boat's electrics , but also rather more detail than I need on on someones medical history. In a Gloucester docks antique emporium I happened to mention to a stall lady that I liked her painted roses and ended up with a complete run down on lock keepers, river conditions and mooring places on the river Severn. I imagine that in an hour I could have got a full house on buzzword bingo.

Thinking up 16 words or topics for our grid is easy. How about:

Toilets ( a sure winner), batteries, BW, mooring overstayers,

Unlicenced boats, paint, vandals, diesel prices

Cyclists, lock etiquette, dog poo, new marinas

Noisy generators, malfunctioning locks, favourite pubs, hire boats

A winning line is virtually guaranteed within 20 minutes. Sadly I notice that most of these are have negative connotations. Well us boaters do like our little grumble don’t we.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Scouting round Gloucester

Have you ever boated down the Severn to Gloucester? Nor me, but I couldn't waste the opportunity of some research while we were in the area so here is my travel guide to Gloucester by boat.

This is best read in a voice similar to that of Mr Cholmondley Warner, preferably with an old 78 rpm record of light music playing in the background.

Historic Gloucester docks are well off the beaten track of England's inland waterways because of one thing. The River Severn.

Despite having links to the Staffs and Worcester Canal at Stourport, the Worcester and Birmingham Canal at Worcester, Shakespeare's Avon at Tewkesbury, and the mouth of the Bristol Avon at Avonmouth, this mighty river is not beloved of boaters. This is because they fear they would die
a) by drowning as the boat sinks in the floods or rip tides, or
b) of boredom because of not being able to see over the high banks and having to cruise long distances between mooring points.

Many boaters particularly fear times of the full moon in these parts. Contrary to popular belief this is not because of the prevalence of werewolves, but rather that the tides may be higher at these times. Actually the statistics show that a surprisingly high proportion of boaters attempting the Severn live to tell the tale.

In years to come there is hope that the Thames-Severn link via the Cotswold canals will make Gloucester accessible canal boaters who prefer not to risk the tidal Severn.. In the meantime my advice would be to avoid the vernal and autumnal equinoxes when tides tend to be bigger. Dry periods between these times would lend the river a much more benign prospect.

Once arriving at Gloucester a lock lifts boats from the Severn into the evocative surroundings of the dock basin with its imposing warehouses. Here we can see the tidily restored remnants of a once thriving inland port, now bustling with pleasure boats instead of the ships and barges that once brought goods bound for the midlands from far off lands.

Some pleasure boats provide more pleasure than others. I had a great deal of pleasure (much of it liquid induced) last week when I boarded this converted paddle steamer for the wedding reception of Mr Tim Bunnage.

Boaters who simply can't get enough of waterways history and canalia might like to cross the basin to visit the Waterways Museum. Here one can spend a jolly hour or two touring the many exhibits and learning about the history of the docks. A special treat is the showing of a 1960s BW publicity film about the benefits of water transport through the docks. This seems to be presented by Mr Cholmondley Warner in disguise and is a true delight.

Visiting boaters are well catered for in the basin by the provision of these well laid out mooring pontoons
At the other end of the basin a lift bridge lets you through to the wide, deep and straight Gloucester and Sharpness canal. Narrowboaters who like to annoy people by exceeding the speed limit will be disappointed to discover that no matter how fast they travel down this canal, their wash will be unable to unsettle the boats moored along the banks. A suggested alternative might be to play a radio very loud.

Eventually the canal will take you to Saul junction where the Stroudwater navigation joins the G&S. In future years this would be where you would turn to enter the reopened (we hope) Thames / Severn link route.

Here there are plenty of mooring spaces, and there is much to entertain you if you like boats and canals. If you don't like boats and canals there is nothing to entertain you. However there is a cafe.

Further on down the main line of the G&S canal, the boater reaches the locks which guard its entrance from the terrifying Severn estuary. Here you can hire a pilot to guide you on your boat down to Avonmouth. Personally I would rather hire a pilot to fly me down to Avonmouth as I am a coward.

So ends our travelogue of this attractive and stimulating corner of the inland waterways. I hope one day to introduce Herbie to its delights, but I will pick my time with care.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Boring video

I think I've worked out how to shrink a 70Mb video down to a much smaller size to put it on the blog, so as my final word on Severn bores I'll post it here to see if it's OK. I expect at this size the quality won't be great but the event is worth watching. Don't forget to turn up the volume on your PC as the sound is a big part of it all.

I watched the bore no less than six times this week, the best being the first, although I think the night time ones might have been higher. The one shown here is not the biggest.

Should you ever go to watch the bore, beware the websites that tell you the best places to watch. I've now concluded that they refer to the easiest places to watch i.e. where the river is closest to the road. We went to the Severn Bore Inn at Minsterworth last night which is a very popular viewing spot and a large crowd gathered, but the wave when it passed was more of a swell than a wave. There was a collective sigh of disappointment. We jumped in the car and drove to Maisemore bridge where there were only a handful of people and the bore was better.

Anyway, do go if you get the chance, however big or small the bore it is a thrilling thing to watch the tide surge up the river, and the great thing is that no amount of government spending cuts can cancel it!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Even more boring and a super bridge sign

Two more Severn bores. The first in the dark last night when we couldn't see a lot but from the sound of the rushing water it must have been quite a good one. Even at that time there was a surfer and three canoeists on the wave as it passed under the bridge. Then this morning at the same spot where I had watched alone yesterday, there were 38 of us watching the next bore. Nine surfers and a canoe rode the wave in line abreast and a few unfortunate souls who had fallen off their boards brought up the rear.
The biggest one is supposed to be tonight and we may go to try to see that too. I love it! I took short videos today and when I can figure out how, I'll try to put one on the blog soon.

Meanwhile, how about this sign seen in the museum at Gloucester docks. A lovely choice of wording don't you think?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wow! Bore is definately not a bore

This morning I saw my first Severn Bore. Only a two star (out of a possible five) apparently, but absolutely brilliant.

I stood waiting a long time at Maisemore bridge, all on my own and wondering if I had missed it. Your mind plays tricks when you are looking down river. Is that patch of light moving? No.

Looking down below the bridge the wet mud banks showed that the tide was low, so the bore couldn't have come yet. Still nothing and twenty minutes after the advertised time. Hmmm.

Suddenly I looked up river and any doubts I had were dispelled. With amazing speed the flood of water rounded the distant bend and I could see surfers on the leading wave. Yeee Haa.

One thing that looks amazing as the wave approaches is the refection from the surface of the swell as it moves under the trees like a sliding curved mirror.

Soon the surfers were almost below the bridge and the roar of the wave clearly audible, just like a breaker on a beach.

I dashed over the road to watch the wave push on upstream above the bridge. It was then that I was struck (not literally!) by the tremendous rushing volume of water behind the wave. Somewhat reminiscent of those awful scenes of the tsunami carrying loads of flotsam, there were logs, planks and all sorts of debris rushing up river.

My position was not far short of the weir which puts a stop to the bore, and soon in the distance I could see the rebound wave as the water smashed into the weir and bounced back downstream. The surfers were now swimming clear as the rest of the tide continued to pile in.

All this took less long to happen than for me to type this description, but it was worth the wait. There are a few more bores this week including some bigger ones so I'll be back to see them although the biggest will be in the dark.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Looking forward to seeing a bore

Just back home for one night, having had a good time in our beloved Shropshire.

Tomorrow morning we're off again, this time to Gloucester where Rick's son Tim is getting married. Fittingly for us, the wedding reception will be on a boat in Gloucester docks, right near the waterways museum too. What splendid planning. Then we're staying on in the area for a few days.

What do you call someone who goes on and on about one of Britain's longest rivers? A Severn Bore of course. And it so happens that we will be staying in the right place at the right time to see the bore next week. Something I have never done, but have always wanted to. Hopoefully I'll have some pics to show you.